Look at the color of this Rhubarb Panna Cotta! Look at it! It’s seriously giving me life this week. Is it as grey and cold where you are as it is where I am? I hope not. I swear Canada is the worst at spring. We just can’t seem to pull it together. I mean, when you hit April, heavy snowfall warnings should be in the past. My parents woke up to 10 cm of snow this morning and I’m still defaulting to my winter coat everytime I work up the courage to leave the house. This isn’t April! I’m not buying it! But then, if it wasn’t April there wouldn’t be rhubarb and since we clearly have rhubarb, I’m going to have to accept that this is April. It’s still bullshit, though.
As you can tell, I’m taking the disappointment of a belated spring oh so gracefully. Honestly, I don’t even know if you can call this spring “belated”. Spring is always sort of belated in Canada. It’s best not to hope for anything resembling patio weather until late June. This may sound pessimistic, but hey, I grew up on the East Coast, we used to skip spring altogether. Seriously, you’d wake up to summer in late June and realize the past 3 months were just slush.
Anyway, this weather-related complaining is a roundabout way to explain why I needed to make something so goddamn pink. Like, electric pink. Like, my-tomboy-status-has-been-revoked pink. Pink pink! I needed the pink to cut through all the grey. A touchstone to remind me that eventually, the weather has to warm up and flowers have to come up and the world won’t forever be COLD wet garbage. And that pink thing turned out to be this Rhubarb Panna Cotta.
Now, I had never made a panna cotta before, so when this Rhubarb Panna Cotta strolled into my head I was shook. I knew I wanted to make it, photograph it, and, in all likelihood, eat it, so I had to face it. And you know what? It was easy! Well, not easy the first time, but once I calmed the hell down and felt like I sort of knew what I was doing, it was easy. But early flubs aside, panna cotta is much simpler to make than most pudding/custard-esque desserts because it contains no eggs. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t count how many times I wound up severely humbled by a pot of sweet scrambled eggs.
Yes, I thought panna cotta had a lot more going on too! It’s really just cream, gelatin (or agar agar, if you’re veg or vegan) and sugar. That’s it! Of course, I added rhubarb deliciousness and, really you can add any kind of fruity or chocolatey deliciousness you like. Panna cotta is pretty much a blank slate and takes very well to experimentation. Essentially, it’s a lazy, perpetually bored lady’s dream. How’s that for a go-to dessert? Plus, it sounds hella fancy too? Amirite?!
But why stop at one rhubarb dessert when you can have two? Stacked on top of each no less. Yes, to really hammer home the pink theme, I decided to add a screaming pink rhubarb gelée on top of my blushing panna cotta. It’s essentially a rhubarb Jello without the brand affiliation. Also, doesn’t gelée sound super swank? It’s like calling pan juices a jus. Minimal effort, maximum class. Really, isn’t that what we all want?
The result of this rhubarb double bill is nothing short of delicious. It delivers the full flavor of in-season rhubarb without glossing over its tart bite. And it is a textural symphony as well. I don’t know how you feel, but I always had a bit of a soft spot for Jello skin and the rhubarb gelée really delivers that particular hit of nostalgia for me. If you were averse to Jello skin, well, maybe you won’t like it. But I have to say that the contrast between the firm rhubarb gelée and the velvety panna cotta might make you look at Jello skin in a whole new light. I will now stop saying “Jello skin”.
So, that’s the skinny on the Rhubarb Panna Cottas. If you have a dinner party on the books at any point during rhubarb season, this is the dessert recipe for it. Seriously, you make it ahead of time and it lives in the fridge until your guests are ready for it. What more could you want from a dinner party dessert?
Rhubarb Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Gelee
- 454 g 1lb fresh rhubarb, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 3/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin divided
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Throw the rhubarb, white wine, sugar and lemon zest in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir until the rhubarb is fully encrusted with sugar. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
- Once the 15 minutes has passed, fish out four pieces of rhubarb that are tender but not falling apart. Set the pieces aside and increased the heat to medium. Let the mixture bubble for 2-3 minutes, then take the saucepan off the heat.
- Strain the mixture using a fine mesh strainer. Retain both the liquid and the solids. Let cool completely. When the rhubarb has cooled, puree the pulp using an immersion blender until very smooth.
- Take 1/2 a cup of the rhubarb liquid and the milk and pour them in a small saucepan. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the gelatin over top and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.
- Once the 10 minutes has passed, add 1/3 of cup of the rhubarb pulp and the salt to the pan. Stir to combine. Place the saucepan over medium heat and heat the mixture to 135°F. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the heavy cream and the vanilla. Transfer the panna cotta to a bowl.
- Fill a larger bowl with ice and place the bowl with the panna cotta on top. Stir the mixture until it cools to 55°F. Transfer the panna cotta to a vessel with a spout and divide the mixture amongst four small ramekins. Place the ramekins in the fridge and chill for 2 hours.
- When there is less than 15 minutes left in the chill time, take 2 tablespoons of the rhubarb liquid and sprinkle the rest of the gelatin over top. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes.
- Pour 1/2 cup of the rhubarb liquid in a saucepan and place it over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil, then remove it from the heat. Stir in the gelatin mixture until completely dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool slightly.
- When the panna cotta has set, take the reserved rhubarb pieces and cut them in half lengthwise. Place the halves, cut-side-down, on top of the chilled panna cottas. Pour the warm rhubarb gelee mixture over top of the rhubarb pieces until they are halfway immersed. Return the ramekins to the fridge and chill for 1 hour more.
- Take the panna cottas out of the fridge 10 minutes prior to serving to take the chill off. Serve with a cup of espresso.